Chickenpox Vaccine Increases Risk for
Scientists said on Thursday
that vaccinating children against chickenpox (varicella) could increase the
risk that adults would develop shingles, a painful blistering rash that is
potentially dangerous in the elderly.
The team, at Britain's Public
Health Laboratory Service (PHLS), said that although vaccination would save
thousands of lives over time, thousands of elderly people could also die
from the complications of shingles, known as herpes zoster.
Writing in the journal Vaccine,
they called for a re-evaluation of the policy of mass chickenpox vaccination
that has been introduced already in the United States and is imminent in
many other countries. In 1995, the chickenpox vaccine was approved for use
in children over 1 year of age in the US and is now required for school
After a bout of naturally-occuring
chickenpox, the varicella zoster virus remains dormant in the body and may
reactivate decades later to cause shingles, a painful rash that typically
strikes chickenpox veterans after the age of 60.
Marc Brisson and his team say
their research shows that adults living with children have more exposure to
the virus that causes chickenpox and enjoy high levels of protection against
shingles. Being close to children means
that adults are exposed to the virus, which acts like a booster vaccine
against shingles, they believe. But if all children were vaccinated, adults
who have had chickenpox would no longer be protected against developing
The researchers worked out a
mathematical model that predicts that eliminating chickenpox in a country
the size of the United States would prevent 186 million cases of the disease
and 5,000 deaths over 50 years. However they said it could also result in 21
million more cases of shingles and 5,000 deaths.
The PHLS said in a statement it
was working out what the impact might be of
introducing a chickenpox vaccine in Britain. "As more evidence becomes
available, it will be shared with the Joint Committee on Vaccination and
Immunisation, which advises the Department of Health on the immunisation
JAMA May 1, 2002;287(17):2211:
By attempting to eliminate
an essentially harmless childhood disease, we are going to create a disaster
of epidemic proportions. This is the "first glimpse" of things to come:
vaccines to treat problems caused by vaccines.
Chickenpox is a mild
infection of childhood caused by the varicella zoster virus. A self --
limiting disease characterized by fever, malaise and an itchy, vesicular
rash that covers the entire body, chickenpox usually resolves within 4 -- 5
days, leaving the child with lifetime immunity. With vaccination by Varivax®,
the duration of protection from varicella infection by is unknown.[1 ]
Shingles is thought to be
caused by the reactivation of the same chickenpox -- causing virus,
varicella -- zoster. It is generally a disease of the elderly but can also
develop in insulin -- dependent diabetics and those who have immunodeficient
diseases such as AIDS and leukemia. A shingles outbreak can be triggered by
the stress-emotional or physical-or by certain medications, including
steroids [ex: prednisone], chemotherapy and radiation.
Unlike chickenpox, a
shingles outbreak is anything but benign. The first sign is usually
unilateral tingling, itching, or stabbing pain on the skin. After a few
days, a red, blistering rash appears that is severely painful rash that can
last for weeks. At its peak, symptoms range from a mild itch to intense
When the outbreak resolves,
it can leave numbness, skin discoloration and permanent scars. Serious
complications, including facial paralysis, hearing loss, or encephalitis
(inflammation of the brain) can occur, and if the infection includes the
eye, the result can be glaucoma, cataracts or even permanent blindness.
There are a few medications
available to treat shingles such as antidepressants, anticonvulsants, and
topical agents. The severity and duration of an attack of shingles can be
somewhat reduced if treated early with the antiviral drugs acyclovir (Zovirax),
valacyclovir ( Valtrex) or famcyclovir (Famvir). However, none of these
medications "cure" shingles.
Approximately 20% of
shingles cases can result in post -- herpetic neuralgia. This condition
manifests as unrelenting pain that can persist for years after the initial
rash has healed. There is no conventional treatment for post -- herpetic
neuralgia and even the strongest pain medications are rarely helpful.
As the article points out,
vaccinating children with the chickenpox vaccine will cause the pool of wild
virus will die out. Adults who had chickenpox as a child need to be re --
exposed to the wild virus to keep any residual dormant virus in check. It is
estimated that currently as many as 2 in every 10 persons may be affected by
shingles in their lifetime. Without this exposure, the number of people who
will contract shingles is anticipated to increase substantially. The
solution appears to be the development of another vaccine.
Not to miss an opportunity,
a large study is underway for the development of the shingles vaccine. The
National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) is currently
testing a shingles vaccine in clinical trials in conjunction with the
National Institutes of Health (NIH.) The
Shingles Prevention Study is part of a nationwide collaborative
effort between the NIAID, Department of Veterans Affairs (the VA), and
Merck. It should be noted that Merck is also the manufacturer of Varivax®,
the chickenpox vaccine.
This double -- blind study
will test a vaccine similar to Varivax®; however, the experimental vaccine
contains a larger amount of the weakened varicella virus. If a participant
was given the placebo during the trial and the vaccine is later found to be
"successful," the person will be offered the shingles vaccine at no charge
at the conclusion of the study. A nice perk for participating as a human
None of this makes sense.
Wouldn't the logical solution be to STOP the chickenpox vaccination and
allow this mild virus to do its job?
However, there seems to be
little logic when it comes to the development of new vaccines. The vaccine
industry believes that the widespread use of vaccines to prevent infectious
diseases is "one of the greatest public health achievements of this century"
and plans are in place to create a vaccine to treat every type of
conceivable ailment. One of the goals set forth in the NIAID Strategic Plan
"Explore opportunities for
vaccine development in less traditional areas, including
therapeutic vaccines for the management of
chronic diseases; vaccines for the control of autoimmune diseases;
and vaccines for special circumstances of public health concern, such as
So, a shingles vaccine to
treat a problem caused by the chickenpox vaccine is only the beginning. Here
are three examples of dozens:
1) The Allergy Vaccine:
for cypress pollen and food allergies. Seven product candidates are in
clinical trials with two more at the preclinical stage.
2) The M.S. Vaccine: A USC
-- invented vaccine for multiple sclerosis (MS)
3) The Rhematoid Arthritis
vaccine: RAVAX® is thought to inhibit the disease -- associated T cells
that cause rheumatoid arthritis, and prevent further damage in patients
suffering from the disease.
Even the most cursory review
of vaccine package inserts and the medical literature will show ample
evidence that the side effects of vaccines can cause allergies. The
hepatitis B vaccine has been implicated in the development of both M.S. and
rheumatoid arthritis. The list goes on and on.
However, with NIAID's
proposed budget of $4 billion for fiscal year 2003 , it is likely we will
see more and more "designer vaccines" to treat a myriad of diseases -- in
fact, there are more than 200 vaccines currently in the pipeline. It remains
to be seen what additional medical disasters will created by this massive
Chicken Pox: Why Do Children
Children Who Had Chickenpox Vaccine Contract Disease
Physician's Desk Reference. Varivax, p. 2202.
Strategic Plan Executive Summary.
Response Corporation press release;
Strategic Plan Executive Summary.
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